As we age, we want to retain our quality of life. Many people look forward to retirement, but poor health can make the senior years miserable. Many diseases and conditions become more likely at an advanced age. Fortunately, it is never too late to shed some bad habits and create some good ones. Doing so can make a big difference in our vitality, energy, and overall sense of well-being. This, of couse, leads to better health. Here are six valuable tips for remaining healthy as you age.
- Exercise. Exercise is absolutely vital to good health, no matter your age. Prioritize cardiovascular fitness (though strength training will also help). Hopefully, you’ve been working out throughout your life — but, if like many of us you’ve spent years in inactivity, start now. Just don’t make the mistake of jumping right into intense exercise. For older folks, strenuous exercise can be dangerous. Start off light and build your way up — you’ll have an easier time maintaining your routine. Also, remember that simply getting on your feet and moving a little is valuable.
- Don’t smoke. A smoking habit is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Smoking increases the chance of heart disease, raises blood pressure, and damages the circulatory system. Strokes and many types of cancer are also associated with smoking. Quitting smoking will make your retirement years better — and might help you have more of them, too. Also, avoid secondhand smoke, which is still quite harmful.
- Check with your doctor. As you get older, the importance of regular checkups and meetings with your physician grows. Older people have a greater chance of many diseases, so get yourself tested. For example, women should be regularly screened for breast cancer, and men for prostate cancer. Pay attention to your body as you go through each day — see your doctor if you sense something is amiss. The sooner a condition is found, the better. Make sure to visit specialists and your dentist, too.
- Eat nutritiously. You’ll only be as healthy as the food you put in your body. Consume lots of fruits and vegetables while avoiding fatty, sugary, salty, and highly processed foods. Lean protein is good for you, but otherwise limit your intake of meat. While these are good general guidelines, remember to ask your doctor about any specific dietary needs you might have. Don’t fall for fad diets and other silly trends — simply follow the scientific consensus on good nutrition.
- Be emotionally health. Not only do stress, depression, and other mental conditions damage quality of life, they also cause physical harm — and might take years off your life. A strong social network of good friends and family members will help you cope with life’s difficulties, so foster your relationships (especially with your spouse), and remember — you can still make new friends. Just don’t let yourself become isolated. To relieve stress, try relaxing activities. For more serious psychological issues, consider therapeutic help.
- Keep your brain healthy and young. No one wants to experience cognitive decline in their senior years. Luckily, even at an advanced age the brain retains the ability to form new neural pathways, and thereby to remain flexible and strong. The secret is activities that challenge and stretch your mind, such as brain teasers, puzzles, or anything that makes you think hard. New, unfamiliar pursuits are particularly valuable, so try a different hobby or learn a different language.
Conventional wisdom says that the most important part of being happy in your senior years is a large retirement fund. While saving up enough money to support your golden years is important, good health is actually much more important to happiness. Without health, you won’t be able to enjoy any of your favorite hobbies, and even spending time with your spouse, grandchildren, and other loved ones will be more difficult. Retain a high quality of life into your senior years by taking the right steps to maintain your health.